Marketing and Procurement Can Help Stop Social Media Evil

So what is worse – modern slavery or paedophilia?

Procurement professionals - through CIPS and other initiatives such as Electronics Watch – are taking a principled stand against the former, indicating that we are beginning to see firms (including procurement functions) being prepared to push back against significant societal evils. But there are other issues procurement can similarly help to address.

YouTube, Facebook and other social media giants love to say that they are “just” platforms, not responsible for what they are publishing, and yet are more than happy to make gigantic profits from being that “publisher”, taking far more profit from advertising than the content providers who use the platform.

That sophistry allows them to pass responsibility for what is seen and heard on their platforms back to the originator. But that’s not good enough, and perhaps we are beginning to see what might make things change. The only way those firms will really pull their fingers out and take action, we suspect, is if they see they will be hit where it hurts -- in their revenues, profits and share price. So we cheered when we heard last week that firms like Mars, Lidl, Adidas, Deutsche Bank and others are withdrawing advertising from YouTube because of their ads being placed next to videos featuring children - videos that are appealing to the worst of human impulses.

Good news, and procurement has a role to play in this. While it may be the marketing director and the brand manager who “own” these budgets, increasingly we see procurement and category managers in a significant role. Our colleagues agree contracts with these firms (sometimes through middle-men, its true) and presumably take some responsibility for the results from this expenditure, as well as taking an interest in supplier and reputation management.

So wouldn’t it be good to see procurement leaders from the biggest advertisers, along with their marketing counterparts, telling these firms exactly what they need to be doing if they are to keep their billion pound advertising revenues? Let’s face it, do you want to see your lovely, wholesome, enjoyed-by-all-the-family brand advertised alongside a video of a young girl in a bikini soaping herself in the bath, or spitting food at her sister, or bleeding and distressed after she loses a tooth, all accompanied by horrible comments from sick people? (Sorry to be graphic, but if you haven’t read the reports, you need to know what is going on).

We firmly believe the role of procurement is all about value – not just buying at the lowest price. That means working with colleagues to drive revenue, profit, and avoid risk, including reputational risk. Just like the modern slavery issue, here is something marketing services procurement folk can do to really help all of that, and also support what is clearly just the right thing to do in a wider sense.

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